This is a true story. I changed the names to protect some of the men involved. Some are from Nederland and own, like, music businesses and stuff in Nederland, and they would not want their involvement known. I have also changed my brother Roy Cohen’s name to “Troy” to protect his identity. Oh, and I changed the name of the Nebraska State Trooper because the tall Caucasian Trooper with the buzz cut that was patrolling Highway 83 near Thedford that Wednesday morning probably would not want his supervisors to know about this.
These events took place in July of 2008. Each year some of my guy friends get together and rent a bunkhouse on the Niobrara River near the Nebraska / South Dakota border. We call this Mancation. It’s a yearly event where we sit around the fire discuss quantum physics, praise our mothers, and drink milk. I don’t want to give the exact location because some of the guys have wives and girlfriends, and they don’t want the wives and girlfriends hiring someone to spy on us.
It was a beautiful, sunny morning and I driving my Dodge Durango north on Nebraska Highway 83 with the music cranking. There were four other men with me – my brother Troy and three others. The windows were down. I had not consumed any alcohol or drugs because I was driving. And I don’t do that kind of thing. Troy and the others had maybe consumed some tequila, a few Colorado herbal products, and/or some other things. I mean, if we’re being honest, they were in an altered state. Because we had just purchased enough alcohol at the WalMart in North Platte to supply fourteen men for five days.
You must understand that we kind of stood out. Because I had a Thule rooftop carrier on top of my SUV and we had written “Kim Jong-Il’s Dead Body” on it in yellow paint. And we had written a lot of other silly stuff on the sides of my vehicle.
Highway 83 has one lane in each direction and there is very little traffic. There are mostly just a lot of marshes, cows, and red winged blackbirds. When what to my wandering eyes should appear but a snapping turtle that must have been fourteen inches in diameter slowly crossing the road. We could not believe this size of this guy. I mean, Thedford, Nebraska, ain’t exactly the Galapagos.
Now, my mom is from Alabama, and I lived in Alabama while in the Air Force, so, though I am not a redneck myself, I know the redneck mind. I can think like a redneck. And I realized that if we did not help this turtle, whose named was Snappy, get to the other side of the road, some redneck in a pickup would purposely run his 275/65 R17’s over Snappy and kill him.
But though I can think like a redneck, I’m also half-Jewish, which means I can also think like God. Or at least Moses. I knew the right thing to do was help Snappy. We pulled off to the side of the road. We all got out of my SUV and approached the turtle. I carefully put one hand on each of side of Snappy’s shell, thinking I would just pick him up and deposit it on the grass on the other side of the road.
Well, let me tell you, those little f$#%$ers have LONG necks that can reach around further than you think and bite you faster than a Republican congressman caught having sex with a child can say “family values.” And they’re freakin’ heavy. So, I instantly dropped Snappy and knew I needed to come up with another plan. “Find a stick,” I said.
Sticks ain’t easy to come by in the sandhills, but Troy produced a tiki torch from the back of my SUV, so I used the torch to start prodding Snappy to the other side of the road. The absurdity of five over-educated middle-aged men using a tiki torch to prod a giant turtle across a highway in rural Nebraska amused me. And it was even more amusing to Troy and my friends because they were enjoying what you might call a tequila sunrise. So, we were all laughing hard and a couple of the guys wanted to get photos of this turtle.
It was about this time that the Trooper (remember the Trooper? This is a story about the Trooper) pulled in behind my SUV and activated his flashing lights. He exited his vehicle, took a as they say in police jargon, took a quick look at the rooftop carrier with “Kim Jong-Il’s Dead Body” painted on it, and said, “Good morning, fellas, I’m Trooper White from the Nebraska State Patrol, what do we have going on?” He was trying hard to keep a straight face and give the stern State Trooper look.
Being a lawyer, I knew just what to say. “Well, we were just minding our own business and driving the posted speed limit with Kim Jong-Il’s dead body on top of my truck when this freakin’ giant turtle thumbed us down…” And then Trooper White couldn’t hold it in anymore and cracked a smile. And I explained we were just trying to do a good deed for Snappy before some drunk liberals from Colorado high on pot tried to run him over.
Trooper White really couldn’t think of anything to charge us with, but he was amused and stayed with us until I finished prodding Snappy to the other side of the road. He was very friendly. He did not ask any of us for our ID and if he noticed that Troy and the others might have consumed a few things, he didn’t say anything.
Trooper White pulled away and then we all piled back into my Durango. Troy and the others went back to maybe consuming a few things. I never asked Troy or the others about the quantity of illegal substances they might have had in the back of my SUV. I didn’t want to know. Snappy went on to lead a productive live. He lives with his wife and three children near Thedford, Nebraska.